MYERSTOWN – So what’s the word on the Elco football team for 2014?
Well, actually there’s more than one. But they all begin with the prefix ‘re’.
Rebuild. Reload. Retool. Redefine. Rediscover. Reinvest. Reinvent.
Yes, the Raiders are facing a major ‘re’ campaign this fall. After graduating a huge class of 15 seniors, prior playing time, reps and general, overall experience is a concern.
“Our strength is team work,” said Elco head coach Bob Miller, during a break in recent ‘two-a-days’. “I like that. This is a group that wants to win, more than anything else. They’re self-sufficient. They’re led.
“I’d say our weakness is our tackling,” continued Miller. “Building that unity is tough. But staying healthy is the biggest concern.”
What the class of 2014’s departure has created are numerous cavities to fill. Elco returns only three offensive starters and five defensive starters from last year’s 4-6 club which finished strong.
Miller and his coaching staff are currently working with a solid roster of 35 student-athletes, only three of whom are seniors – lineman Pat Adams, receiver Dustin Miller and defensive back Dakotta Moyer. The Raiders will rely heavily on contributions from its junior and sophomore classes.
“I don’t care how many we have,” said Miller of his numbers. “I want them (his players) to work. Some teams get caught up with wanting to have large numbers. But yes, they are working. They’re doing a good job.
“It’s (training camp) going alright,” Miller continued. “We have three seniors, and one never played football before. We have a lot to replace. We’re kind of piecing it together right now. We lost 15 seniors of the 30 kids we had last year. It’s ‘what can we do?’. We’re trying to find what we’re good at. We have Jeff (Martin) back, so we know we can throw the ball.”
“I just want us to win,” said Adams. “But for us to do that we have to stay healthy.”
Elco’s ability to move the ball will revolve around 6-4 junior field general Martin and his strong right arm. But because of Martin’s grasp of the offense and his targets’ relative inexperience, there is some concern about quarterback and receivers being on the same page.
“He’s becoming more accurate, not because of his arm, but because of his ability to read defenses,” said Miller of Martin, who amassed 2,100 passing yards. “He’s seeing pressure. He’s moving his feet up into the pocket. He can do it, but the team hasn’t caught up to him yet. He’s more vocal and taking more responsibility.
“We were a passing team last year,” Miller added. “We were in five-wide a lot. We definitely want to build off of that.”
Martin does have some nice sized body guards up-front, big guys who, if they could also perfect their run-blocking technique, could all of a sudden make the Raiders balanced. Joining Adams for the trench wars will be junior Jake Earhart, junior Colt Umberger, junior Jeremy Habowski, junior Nick Kitsch, junior Bobby Kreps, junior Nate Hostetter, junior Kyle Yoders, junior Dylan Stoops, sophomore Ryan Eshleman, sophomore Dylan Hill, sophomore Tony Rodriguez, sophomore Kadin Miller and sophomore William Petruska-Rhoads.
“I want to tackle this year,” said Miller. “Last year we got better as the year went on. We gave up 55 (points) to Hamburg the first game, and last year we got better and better. We’ve just got to tackle better, and we can’t turn the ball over.
“We’ve got to develop some sort of team work,” added Miller. “Those 15 kids we had last year played together all those years. They’ve (the current players) got to form that team work, that bond. If we’re able to do that, we’ll be able to piece together some wins.”
The Raiders’ skill kids could receive a baptism under fire. Miller and Martin will have to create touches for Dustin Miller, junior Travis Zimmerman, junior Robert Bidelsbach and sophomroe Tyler Horst, among others.
“It went pretty good,” said Miller of a preseason scrimmage with Pine Grove. “We can’t turn the ball over. We are tackling better on defense. We were more physical than I thought we’d be for a young group. But there are some things we’ve got to get cleaned up.”
“I guess my goal for the team would be just to get past the regular season,” said Dustin Miller. “Just have an extra game.”
“We’re a totally different group,” said Coach Miller. “We have three seniors. We had eight two-way starters last season, and they’re gone.
“I love that group of kids who were with us last season,” Miller continued. “They battled week in and week out. We were 0-3 going into the section (Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League). But they didn’t let it get to them.”
“We’re on path to be successful,” said Miller, who also heads Elco’s track and field program. “There were 28 kids when I first took over. Now we have 35 with three seniors. The junior high program has 40 kids. I want kids who want to play. They’re hungry and they want to be successful. We’re starting to see carry over from track to football. We’re starting to see more summer work.”
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2014 Elco Football Schedule
Friday Aug. 29 – Hamburg Area High School, Stadium, 7:00PM
Friday Sep. 05 – Palmyra High School Stadium, 7:00PM
Friday Sep. 12 – @ Lebanon High School, Lebanon High School, 7:00PM
Friday Sep. 19 – @ Pequea Valley High School, Pequea Valley High School, 7:00PM
Friday Sep. 26- Annville−Cleona High School (Homecoming), Stadium, 7:00PM
Friday Oct. 03 – @ Donegal High School, Donegal High School, 7:00PM
Friday Oct. 10 – Northern Lebanon Sr High School, Stadium, 7:00PM
Friday Oct. 17 – Columbia High School, Stadium, 7:00PM
Friday Oct. 31 – @ Twin Valley High School, Twin Valley High School, 7:00PM